environment and natural resources


BLACK BUTTE RANCH - Forestry experts from Oregon State University will discuss local forest health and fire danger at the Black Butte Ranch Fire Station on Thursday, Oct. 14.

In addition to recommending increased care around properties, Hal Salwasser, dean of OSU's College of Forestry, and Stephen Fitzgerald, associate professor with the OSU Extension Forestry Program, will promote new management plans and more investment in fire science research, especially along the "urban-wildland interface" where human habitation meets Oregon's natural lands.

"We want to put researchers to work in your neighborhoods and watersheds to get ahead of the danger that waits with every dry, hot summer," said Salwasser. Despite decreasing public funds, OSU is committed to expanding research in urban-wildland interface areas such as Bend, Black Butte Ranch, Camp Sherman and Sisters, Salwasser said. The university is raising private funds to endow a chair in fire science and to establish a fellowship for graduate students to study interface issues.

As fires in 2002 and 2003 demonstrated, interface regions are particularly vulnerable to wildfire. Past Oregon wildfires have cost millions. While the 2004 fire season was calm in comparison, many of Oregon's forests are still thick with surface and ladder fuels, and pose a growing threat to the more than 240,000 homes built along the urban-wildland interface.

Historically, periodic, low-intensity fire is a natural part of the Cascade ecosystem, but today's fires are less frequent and more severe. Fitzgerald attributes the current unhealthy forests to multiple factors: a century of fire suppression policy, failure to thin tree and shrub understories, selective logging of large, fire-resistant trees and a shift in forest composition from predominantly pine to fir. Drought, insect infestations and disease also increase the wildfire threat. The complexity of the problem calls for immediate and long-term solutions with the collaboration of residents, land managers, and the scientific community. Homeowners on the interface should prune and thin trees, remove vegetation and woodpiles near homes, and remodel and build with fire-resistant materials. But property care alone is not enough, said Salwasser.

"We need bold management activities beyond the interface that thin lots of smaller trees, and reduce surface and ladder fuels under bigger older trees," he said. "We need to return forests to conditions where fire is more natural, manageable, less costly and less damaging to both ecosystems and properties." "The worst we can do is nothing," added Fitzgerald. "The current passive management system will only cause the situation to deteriorate further."


Hal Salwasser, 541-737-1585


CORVALLIS - Environmental philosophers, Christian, Buddhist and Islamic scholars, a noted astronomer and a Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American author will join forces at Oregon State University Oct. 28-30 for a special symposium examining the relationship between nature and different conceptions of sacredness.

Called "Nature and the Sacred: A Fierce Green Fire," the symposium will be held at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis. Cost is $90. Registration information and the entire schedule of the symposium is available at http://oregonstate.edu/cla/natureandsacred.

"The symposium is going to be a creative conversation about the relation of nature to the sacred and what that means in our lives," said Charles Goodrich, an instructor with the Spring Creek Project at OSU. "The diversity of our speakers is exceptional. Experiencing their wisdom and their insights will be inspiring."

Leading off the symposium will be a lecture Thursday at 7 p.m. by N. Scott Momaday, one of the country's leading Native American scholars and authors, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, "House Made of Dawn."

Presenters on Friday and Saturday include:

  • Marcus Borg, the Hundere Chair in Religion and Culture at OSU and one of the nation's foremost biblical and historical Jesus scholars; 
  • Joanna Macy, a leading peace activist and Buddhist scholar who wrote "Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age";
  • Kathleen Dean Moore, a distinguished professor of philosophy at OSU, an award-winning author and director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word; 
  • Seyyid Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islam studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and one of the world's foremost scholars of Islam;
  • Chet Raymo, an astronomer and professor of physics at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, and a science columnist for the Boston Globe.

On Friday evening, Raymo will read from his works on astronomy in tandem with a performance by the Corvallis-OSU Symphony. The concert, says Goodrich, will be a "feast for the ears, the mind, they eyes, the heart."

"Imagine Haydn's 'Oratorio' along with readings in celebration of creation by astronomer Chet Raymo and images from the Hubble telescope of explosions at the beginning of time," Goodrich said. "Then, for the grand finale, the world premier of 'In the Beginning,' (OSU professor) Michael Coolen's piece for orchestra, choir and universe - it will be an exceptional evening of science, music and poetry."

The symposium will conclude on Saturday with a celebration of action on behalf of nature, Goodrich said. Saturday's program, "Catching Fire: Vision into Action," is free and open to the public. It will include readings by writers Susan Zwinger, John Daniel, Robin Kimmerer and others; a performance and workshop by African drumming group Common Pulse; a nature writing workshop; musical performances and poetry readings; mask making; and information tables and displays.

Story By: 

Charles Goodrich, 541-737-6198

OSU nontraditional forestry student finds time to rally support for college

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Val Goodness believes in bringing many voices to the discussion of sustainability.

As a 50-year-old nontraditional student at Oregon State University, she has learned that balance can be achieved between the goals of environmentalists and the needs of the forest industry, due in large part to the faculty, staff and students she’s come to know as an undergraduate in the College of Forestry.

Goodness is happy to have found a place that feels like home in the Department of Natural Resources. Her life has been a series of challenges, including escape from domestic violence, and the strain of raising an autistic son, Caleb, who is almost 14. Now, as a single parent struggling to find the money to survive and to attend school, Goodness has faith that she’ll not only thrive, but that her education at OSU will give her the chance to help change the world.

“We can be the sustainability leaders of the country and the world, if only we can be given the chance,” she said.

Although challenged by lack of money, and tied down by her son’s need for constant support and supervision, Goodness has been finding ways to give back. She’s volunteered with the OSU Women’s Center, ASOSU’s Get Out the Vote and the OSU Student Sustainability Coalition, and more recently, has found ways to volunteer for the College of Forestry.

Recent statewide budget concerns have meant some potentially serious cuts to the college, and Goodness pitched in to help. As a student at Lane Community College she worked on fundraising efforts, and she wanted to put those skills to use for OSU.

“This is our future, for our state and our country,” she said of the College of Forestry. “We’ve fallen behind in this country in technology, academics and education. This is the prime opportunity to take advantage of the great minds at OSU. These are great students who want to give back. Why cut funding to the college when the potential is so great?”

With that in mind, Goodness wrote heartfelt letters to key legislators, and pledged to help in any other way she could.

“I can do phone banking, make cookies,” she said. “This is something really valuable and important. My school deserves it. They believe in me and support me. We need to help in any way we can.”

Salwasser was so impressed with her letter that he forwarded it onto other OSU officials, and made a point to meet with Goodness personally, to thank her for her dedication to the college.

Goodness believes that ideas will come out of the work forestry students are doing that will revitalize Oregon’s economy and provide a smarter, more cost-effective approach to using forest resources. Cutting back funding for such work would negatively impact Oregon at time when the state needs its most creative minds.

Part of Goodness’ dedication to sustainability is her grounding in Native American tradition. Her heritage includes Blackfoot and Tsalagi, and she has volunteered with the OSU Longhouse, and will be the activities director for the Longhouse beginning in September.

“I believe we can learn about sustainability from indigenous people,” Goodness said. “We’ve not been hearing their voices for a long time. We should implement some of their ideas and make them more available as stakeholders. They have valuable input.”

Goodness received a Ford Foundation scholarship for full tuition during her first two years of undergraduate work. If she goes onto graduate school, which she hopes to do, and maintains a high GPA, the scholarship will also pay 80 percent of her graduate school tuition. Meanwhile, she will continue to balance her school workload with her dedication to Caleb, who can only attend school part time because of his autism. But the struggle, she believes, will be worth it.

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It's time to clear fire-prone vegetation near your home

REDMOND - Fire experts say a low snow pack thus far this winter may lead to another catastrophic fire season - just one year after Oregon suffered through the worst series of fires in recent memory. More than 2,000 fires burned nearly a million acres of Oregon forestland in 2002, according to Oregon Department of Forestry.

Property owners in rural or remote forest areas should begin taking responsibility now - before the growing season - for reducing fire risk, even if they have fire protection, advises Stephen Fitzgerald, forester with the Oregon State University Extension Service in central Oregon.

Involved with forest fire issues for the past 12 years, Fitzgerald is the author of the book, "Fire In Oregon's Forests: Risks, Effects, and Treatment Options," recently published by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.

Rural and remote homes are at higher risk for fire than city dwellings, said Fitzgerald.

"Although you may have rural fire protection provided by a local fire protection district, don't live under the illusion that firefighters will be able to extinguish a wildfire before it gets to your home and property," warned Fitzgerald. "In the event of a large wildfire, firefighters may not enter property that has hazardous fuel conditions, placing themselves and fire-fighting equipment at risk."

Late winter and early spring is a great time to take action and reduce fuels and other fire hazards around homes and property, he said.

To lessen the risk of wildfire, Fitzgerald offers a few simple steps to protect home and property in wooded and rural areas. Most of these tasks can be completed in just one weekend.

  • Create a "green-belt" (i.e., lawn) 10- to 30-feet wide around your home.
  • Landscape with fire-resistant plants in both irrigated and non-irrigated portions of your landscape.
  • Clean and remove conifer needles and other debris from your roof and gutters annually.
  • Prune trees up to eight to 10 feet to eliminate "fuel ladders." You can vary the pruning height so your trees are more natural appearing.
  • Reduce the number of native shrubs under trees and in non-irrigated portions of your property.
  • Thin trees so there is about 10 feet between tree crowns; clean up thinning debris. Consider removing trees up against your house or with branches overhanging the roof, or at least prune branches up so they are not in contact with the side of the house or roof.
  • Keep firewood stacked 30 feet away and uphill from your home.
  • Replace a wood shake roof with a fire-resistant roof as soon as possible or feasible.

One challenge homeowners face when cleaning up their property is what to do with all the debris. Options include burning small piles, chipping the material or bringing the debris to your local landfill. Contact local fire departments for burning regulations before you strike a match, advises Fitzgerald.

Portable chippers can be rented to grind up woody debris. The chipped material can then be spread out on the soil surface beneath your trees, used as landscape mulch or spread on a garden path.

Some county landfills offer "free days" for bring in yard debris. The landfill then chips the material to make large batches of mulch used by public works departments and others. Check with local county landfills to see if they offer such a program.

Think fire prevention when planning a new home in a forested area, advises Fitzgerald. Use fire-resistant siding and non-combustible composition, tile or metal roofing materials. Limit the amount of deck area because hot embers can ignite wooden decks. Build on a level portion of your property when possible (fire burns faster on slopes). Install alternative water (e.g. cistern or pond) sources for firefighters because electric power often fails or is shut off during a fire making your well and outside faucets useless.

Create adequate access to your property for fire-fighting equipment to enter and exit easily. Check with local fire protection districts for entrance/exit standards. Don't forget to display reflective address numbers where your driveway meets the street. Most local fire departments have reflective address signs available. For more information on wildfire prevention, Fitzgerald suggests these websites:

Contact your rural fire protection district office for fire-related information and burning regulations. Local field offices of the Oregon Department of Forestry and your local county office of the OSU Extension Service can also help provide additional information or help direct you to other sources of information.


Stephen Fitzgerald, 541-548-6088

OSU helps tree farmers plan across generations

OREGON CITY - Planting a tree is a long-term investment. So when it comes time to pass on the family tree farm, long-term planning is necessary.

A new program from Oregon State University Extension Service is helping forest owners plan transitions from one generation to the next.

"When you are managing a crop that spans generations, you need to talk about long-term goals and values with your family," said Mike Bondi, OSU professor and Extension forester in Clackamas County.

Bondi and Pat Frishkoff, former director of OSU's Austin Family Business Program, have designed a program to help families discuss sensitive issues and plan for the future of the family tree farm. The program explores the human side of transitioning forest land from one generation to the next.

"Forest owners may be worried how to keep the farm in the family," said Bondi. "Or they may find it hard to choose which family member should be given the responsibility for managing the family farm.

"Where most families struggle is being able to openly communicate about family values, priorities, wishes, and commitments," Bondi added. "It isn't easy."

Recently, 60 family members joined Bondi and Frishkoff in the OSU Extension program to talk openly about what works in family businesses and what doesn't. Several families were there with grandparents, parents and children.

At one point, Frishkoff separated the younger generation from the older generation and asked each group to list questions or statements they wanted to address to the other generation. The lists reflected concerns about money, careers, philosophy and future choices.

"This was an extremely useful way to get all of the fears, concerns, wishes and dreams out on the table for the entire group in a non-threatening way," Bondi said. "Pat focused attention on the tough issues, helping families define what their farm means to them, what their vision for the future is and how to set goals to reach their wishes."

At the end of the one-day workshop, each family left with a transition planning notebook and the beginning of a plan for transitioning ownership and management of the family farm.

"Because of the interactions between our family and the interactions we had with other families, we have prevented misunderstandings about expectations that would cause problems," said Scott Russell, a tree farmer from Scappoose, who came to the workshop with his wife and two sons.

"It really helped us to see the issues that need to be resolved now as opposed to later," agreed his son, Carl.

For more information about the program, "The Future of Your Tree Farm: The Human Side of Transitioning to the Next Generation," contact the Clackamas County office of the OSU Extension Service, at 503-655-8631.


Story By: 

Mike Bondi, 503-655-8631

Woodland owners learn resource management

OREGON CITY - For some people, weekend chores mean more than cleaning the garage.

Ground truth aerial photos; inventory forest resources; sample streams and riparian areas.

These are just a few of the tasks landowners in the Portland area are undertaking as they learn how to manage their forested land.

For five months, a dedicated corps of small woodland owners have attended class at night and slogged through wet woods on Saturdays as they learned the fine points of resource management planning in a new program offered by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Mike Bondi, OSU professor and Extension forester in Clackamas County, helped create the Resource Management Planning program as part of a growing curriculum he has developed for small woodland owners in the metro area. Bondi's forestry educational classes range from planting trees to passing on the family farm.

"Mike is a super educator," said Scott Russell, an engineer by training and a tree farmer who has taken several of Bondi's classes. "His forestry programs are models for the rest of the country. To us, he walks on water … and logs!"

Russell and his wife live outside Scappoose on a tree farm they have stitched together from cutover or neglected pieces of land.

"We could only afford to buy clearcuts," Scott said with a chuckle. After cobbling together a few hundred acres, the Russells knew they needed help managing their land and rehabilitating their forest.

"Our goal is to leave the land better than we found it. But managing a tree farm is really more than sticking a tree in the ground," said Scott. "It's beyond my education." So, the Russells signed up for OSU Extension's Resource Management Planning program last winter, along with a dozen other landowners.

The goals of the participants are as diverse as their lands.

For example, Ron and Walt Dilley inherited 80 acres of forestland near Colton from their father, and now their goal is to manage the land for a steady, sustainable income from timber.

For woodland owners like the Dilleys who intend to harvest timber, having a resource management plan may allow a tree farm to be certified, which can put the forester in a better position to market his logs.

"Dad always had a plan in his head for the forest," Walt recalled. "He knew what he was doing, but no one else did."

"When Ron and I took over, we did the same thing, just kept it all in our heads and told ourselves we knew what we were doing."

The OSU Extension program taught the Dilleys how to survey and inventory their forest resources and to prepare a written plan.

" After that we saw things we didn't know we had, and we didn't find things we thought we had," Walt said. "And now we have a plan on paper."

Mike and Cheryl Schwartz's forestland may be a fraction the size of their classmates', but their love of the land is just as expansive. Having recently moved from Florida onto an eight-acre parcel of forestland just beyond Portland, they felt they had everything to learn.

"We didn't even know what kinds of trees we had," Cheryl said, laughing.

An aeronautical engineer and an aquatic biologist, the Schwartzes enrolled in the Extension program in order to learn what they had and how to take care of it.

"Lots of the others in the program were tree farmers who had been doing this for years. We were starting our management plan from ground zero," said Cheryl.

The Schwartzes dedicated their weekends to mapping every inch of their forest, clearing out invasive species, and enlisting neighborhood children to help count trees.

They were first in the class to finish their management plan, with goals to enhance wildlife habitat and manage without chemicals.

"We've got our neighbors interested in taking care of the roads and streams, so the benefits really do flow downstream," said Cheryl.

A program such as Bondi's has benefits beyond the woodland boundary, as property owners learn to care for waterways and wildlife as well as trees, according to Jim Cathcart of Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem.

"The best thing we can do is have people take an interest in their land," said Cathcart. "Developing a management plan helps the tree farmer, and it helps the rest of us, too."

Story By: 

Mike Bondi, 503-655-8631

New publication explains options for forest certification

CORVALLIS - How "green" is a forest? For forest owners and managers, that question has bearing on forest practices, conservation and marketing. In the last several years, forest certification has developed as a way to identify forest products in the marketplace that come from forests being managed with conservation-minded practices. But not all certification processes demand the same standard or carry the same credibility.

A new publication from Oregon State University Extension Service sorts out various systems of forest certification to help forest owners and managers choose the best system for their forests and markets.

Written by a team of Extension foresters from OSU and University of Wisconsin, the publication explores the opportunities, limitations and costs of forest certification. "Forest certification is no longer a new topic in forestry, but new systems and features are always developing," said Rick Fletcher, one of the publication's authors and an OSU Extension forester in Benton County. "Certification is now a worldwide reality in forest product markets and looks like it will be with us for some time to come."

"Forest Certification in North America," EC1518, is available by mail for $2 per copy plus $3 for shipping and handling. Send your request and check or money order payable to OSU to: Publication Orders, Extension and Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119.

Or view it on the web at: http://eesc.oregonstate.edu. Select "Publications and Videos," then "Forestry," then "Business management."

Story By: 

Rick Fletcher, 541-766-3554

OSU Press publishes Willamette Basin planning atlas

CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Press has published an unprecedented new reference book detailing ecological conditions and human activity in the Willamette River Basin through the past century-and-a-half and beyond.

"Willamette River Basin Planning Atlas, Trajectories of Environmental and Ecological Change" is a large format volume, full of color maps, tables, aerial and archival photos and other illustrations. With lucid text, it provides long-term, large-scale perspective of human and natural systems of the Willamette Basin through time.

The atlas provides a detailed examination of how the Willamette Basin might change between now and the year 2050, when an additional 1.7 million people are expected to live in the region.

Working together as the Pacific Northwest Research Consortium, the project was a major undertaking of scientists from OSU, the University of Oregon and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Thirty to 40 of us worked on this project for about seven years, working together to do something really huge," said Stan Gregory, OSU professor of fisheries and wildlife and a principal investigator of the project. "Usually studies are limited to a certain small area, a municipality or county. We put all our data for communities in the entire Willamette Basin together to see how all our management decisions add up to create a landscape."

According to Gregory and others who worked on the project, results of the analysis necessary to create the atlas offered some surprising hope for the future of the Willamette Basin's environment.

"What blew me away was that we found that we might be able to improve or get back some of what we've lost, as far as wildlife, fish and riparian habitat - even if we have two million more people in 2050, if we choose to take conservation seriously," said Gregory. v Harnessing population forecasting, mathematical models, natural resource inventories, land use patterns and computer mapping technologies, the authors "looked" into future alternatives and their likely effects on important natural resources including water, terrestrial habitats and wildlife. The three possible scenarios they considered were:

  • The Plan-Trend Scenario, in which present-day policies and land use practices in forestry, agriculture and urban development are assumed to carry on unchanged from now until the year 2050;
  • The Development Scenario, in which land use laws and other environmental policies are loosened and "market forces" would have greater influence to 2050;
  • The Conservation Scenario, in which conservation and restoration of ecological function would play a larger role in land and water allocation to 2050, relative to today's practices.

"The models and scenarios told us, yes, all the little cumulative land use and public policy decisions we make now and into the future may make a difference for future generations," said Gregory.

The 192-page atlas is rich with history, geography, geology, biology and patterns of human population and land use from the time of European settlement up to the present. It offers concepts for river restoration and potential future scenarios as well.

Intended to inform policy makers, public officials, resource managers, and scientists - as well as students and citizens - the atlas provides a comprehensive means to learn about past ecological conditions and human activity and plan for the future of the Willamette Basin, the most populated and productive region of Oregon.

Although the atlas focuses on the Willamette River Basin, it can provide a useful model for planners and residents of other river basins as well, said Gregory.

"We hope that both public and private agencies and watershed councils will use it as they think about land use and resource decisions," said Gregory. "Only by understanding the full implications of the choices before them can local communities make informed decisions about future land and water use."

"Willamette River Basin Planning Atlas - Trajectories of Environmental and Ecological Change" was edited by David Hulse, Gregory, and Joan Baker for the Pacific Northwest Ecosystem Consortium. The book is available in bookstores, libraries or by calling 1-800-426-3797.


Stan Gregory, 541-737-1951

Multimedia Downloads

Willamette basin atlas

Old growth research outlined at "First Monday" lecture

BEND - An expert on the relationship between old growth forests and the Earth's climate will speak on Monday, Feb. 3, at Oregon State University-Cascades Campus, as part of its First Monday Lecture Series.

William Winner, an OSU professor of botany and plant pathology, will present "Old Growth Forests and SUVs: Ancient Forests and Carbon Use in the Pacific Northwest." The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in Hitchcock Auditorium on the Central Oregon Community College campus in Bend; it is free and open to the public.

Winner will discuss increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, their impact on global climate, and the accumulation and output of carbon in old growth forests.

Forests can be sinks or sources of carbon and thereby offset or contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that there are differences in carbon use between species, between the upper and lower canopies, between seasons, and between years.

Using a crane that towers 250 feet into the sky, Winner and some of his students perform experiments high in the forest canopy to measure carbon levels.

"The crane allows us to do scientific research in a way that cannot be done anywhere else in the Northwest," Winner said. "When we come here it's like we're taking their pulse and asking how they are at that moment."

Winner will discuss the increases in carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and also how the Pacific Northwest's love affair with the sport utility vehicle contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The "First Monday" lecture, presented by OSU-Cascades, is a monthly series featuring experts in a variety of fields and subjects of interest to Central Oregonians. Call OSU-Cascades Campus at 541-322-3100, or visit this the web at www.OSUcascades.edu, for more information.


Bill Winner, 541-737-1749

Isotope tracing finding use from China to Oregon

CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University hydrologist is using one of the more peaceful forms of nuclear technology to help experts in China learn more about water movement in their streams, groundwater and soil, with possible applications to such issues as groundwater protection or flood management.

Jeff McDonnell, a professor and Richardson Chair in Watershed Science in the OSU Department of Forest Engineering, just returned from a training course in China that focused on the use of stable isotopes to trace water movements.

As the editor of several books and journals and more than 100 technical papers on this technology, McDonnell helped instruct Chinese researchers on the application of isotope tracing techniques to water management problems in Asia.

"Tracing of naturally applied isotope tracers represents a way for developing countries to side-step expensive research infrastructure and understand where their water is moving, its age and how different groundwater systems connect," McDonnell said. "This provides valuable information for groundwater remediation, understanding groundwater-surface water interactions and various types of pollutant transport."

China has historically had major problems with flooding that caused massive loss of life - more than one million people died in the 1980s from flooding of the Yangtze River. And rapid growth in industrial development in China has made it important to better understand the movement of surface waters and protect groundwater from contamination.

All of these problems can benefit from the type of water movement data made possible by isotope tracers, experts say.

The work in China is being supported by the United Nations and its International Atomic Energy Agency.

This technology is also being used to address water resource issues in Oregon, McDonnell said, such as in the Klamath and Willamette River basins.

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Jeffrey McDonnell, 541-737-8720